Crane calls for independent review of toddler death in P.E.I. murder-suicide case

Teresa Wright
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Nash David Campbell

Questions remain about how a four-year-old boy became the victim of a murder-suicide in P.E.I. earlier this year, says Independent MLA Olive Crane.

During question period in the legislature Thursday, Crane called on government to appoint a retired judge to review the case.

She noted this was done with the Rehtaeh Parsons case in Nova Scotia when questions and concerns emerged about that case.

“The bottom that I am trying to get to for so many people is, how do we find out what went wrong, and how do we make sure it never happens again?” Crane said.

Last June, Trish Hennessey and her four-year-old son Nash Campbell were found dead in the back seat of a torched vehicle in St. Felix, near Tignish.

After an 11-week investigation, autopsy and toxicology tests, together with information gathered from a criminal investigation, RCMP determined Hennessey murdered her son and killed herself.

Tests also found both mother and son had ingested sedative prescription drugs prior to their deaths and that the fire was set from somewhere inside the vehicle.

A close friend of Hennessey told The Guardian in June that Hennessey had lost custody of Nash in family court just hours before they were both found dead.

This has raised questions about whether an inquest should be held into the boy’s death.

Justice Minister Janice Sherry pointed out the provincial corner’s office is still investigating this case.

As such she would not address any specifics but she did say, generally, if any coroner’s investigations do not reach satisfactory results, she does have the authority to call for a review.

“If, for whatever reason, perhaps in the best responsibility to the public interest, I could call a review,” Sherry said.

She said it would be unprofessional and premature to say whether she would call for a review of this murder-suicide.

“The coroner is still doing his investigation, and until that work is done, it would not be anything I could even comment on.”

Crane says she believes a retired judge should perform an independent examination of the case, as it could help to answer questions many have about how this tragedy occurred.

“When there’s tragic circumstances in the loss of a child, you need someone who can have the authority to have a real thorough review,” Crane said.

“There’s family members on both sides, community members and an awful lot of people who would like to know – could we have done something differently and how can we make sure this never happens again.”

An amendment is being made this session to the Child Protection Act due to some difficulties with information sharing identified during the coroner’s investigation into this case.

The amendment allows the director of Child and Family Services to share information with the coroner’s office, as they already can for criminal investigations or court proceedings.

The Guardian and CBC are attempting to access files from the custody proceedings involving Nash and Hennessey. A recent court date to hear arguments relating to the release of these documents was postponed to a later date.

Organizations: RCMP, The Guardian, Child and Family Services CBC

Geographic location: P.E.I., Nova Scotia, Tignish

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Recent comments

  • zabette from st felix
    December 07, 2013 - 02:08

    from the very nite this happened i do not believe the mother killed her child and there was never anything said about the clothing and car seat and other articles that was found quite a distance from the place where the vehicle burnt a few days later by government woirkers who were working clearing brushes on the shield road between st edwards and the centre line road,the workers went to the police station and reported this and the reason why they knew it was nashs belongings and his mothers because his name and the day care name was in his packsack,so why would she drop these articles off there and then go to st felix and burn the vehicle,i believe Olive Crane did the right thing and i hope something different will come out of this

  • Concerned
    December 06, 2013 - 21:19

    Please continue to press the real issues support is with you 100%. Maybe the services related to the lack of addiction services, and mental health treatment in this particular case in this province could bring some light to this issue of a death of a child.

  • Leave it to the professionals
    December 06, 2013 - 10:43

    If the media is so anxious to provide fodder for gossip -,find something else. The professionsls on this case can provide whatever is necessary to the family to find closure - if it is even possible with a tragedy like this. The 'most people' Crane is referring to are the people who really don't need to know. This family has suffered enough.

    • don
      December 06, 2013 - 13:45

      yes they have suffered but i think if there lose could help save another child from death it would be worth it.

  • About Time
    December 06, 2013 - 10:35

    About time someone spoke up on this! So many are accountable for the death of that precious child. Everyone failed him!

  • Hard Questions are Never Easy Questions
    December 06, 2013 - 10:31

    Olive, as a mother and caring person, has the courage to raise this issue. Not because it's politically expedient - it won't get her votes or more support or accolades. What it does do is speak to truth. It speaks to the situations too many of us live in that allows this type of tragedy to happen.

  • @voter
    December 06, 2013 - 10:18

    If you don't think this is already political you're not very political aware. She's suggesting there's gaps in the system that failed this family and I bet there are political causes for those gaps.

  • Not political
    December 06, 2013 - 10:13

    This isn't a political issue to be raised in Question Period. Shame on Olive for trying to score cheap headlines out of a tragedy.

  • what's to review?
    December 06, 2013 - 07:17

    Why does Olive Crane see the need for the family's (both sides) to be aired for all to see? Why do the Guardian and CBC feel the need to access the custody hearing information and make a family's private life public matter. Could you be any more disrespectful? “There’s family members on both sides, community members and an awful lot of people who would like to know – could we have done something differently and how can we make sure this happens again.”--Crane. This is someone's life, not a source of gossip. Let the family take the steps they need to in order to get some closure, but leave it at that. The "awful lot of people" who are so curious should just go get some trashy tabloids instead. Was there something that could have been done to prevent this? Possibly. Hindsight is always 20-20. Most people who commit filicide are or have been assessed to have some mental health issue, but most people who have mental health issues do not kill their children. From all the research I have done, there do not appear to be any significant markers identified that can be used to predict this result, with the possible exception of severe psychosis and delusional thoughts that cannot be controlled. This mother obviously did not display any glaring signs of instability, as the judge allowed her to have the child for the night (see previously published stories on the matter). Nobody argued that point. Custody and access issues are at the heart of many of the cases of filicide and filicide-suicide in North America. Maybe we need to reconfigure how we address custody issues in the first place. Let the coroner and the other professionals review the file and provide the family with some answers. If there are policy changes or practices that come from that, that's wonderful--let every sad situation be an opportunity for growth and change. But let's try and respect the child's privacy, as well as those mourning the losses and keep the details about their private lives private.

    • Lisa
      December 06, 2013 - 09:02


    • it's not about gossip
      December 06, 2013 - 09:12

      I can't imagine what the family (on both sides) has been going through and will continue to go through for the rest of their lives. This is a devastating tragedy, but we have an obligation to look at every possible angle here and try to find out what, if anything, could have been done to prevent it. Maybe there's nothing , maybe a policy needs to change when dealing with the custody issues. We won't know until we look deeper. Too often nothing gets done, or we don't speak up when we should because we're too worried about politeness. I want to be respectfu of the family's privacy, but with all due respect, our bigger priortiy is to Nash. We didn't do enough for him. The very least we can do is to ask what we could have done differently.

    • No need for a review!!
      December 06, 2013 - 10:22

      You hit the nail right on the head "What's to review?"!! Let these families move on with their lives already!

    • what's to review
      December 06, 2013 - 12:35

      With all due respect "it's not about gossip", I have to disagree with you. As I stated, the professionals can do what they need to do in order to assess the situation and provide information to the family. But any means to publish the specifics of this child's personal information is purely gossip. Those who know the family can be made aware of whatever they choose to share; the rest of us should not be privy to that information. I have no problem with the professionals making changes to policy or to practices, or even to acknowledging that there have been gaps in the system. I have no problem with new programming or education coming from this tragedy. I do, however, have a problem with the specific and personal details being made public. I think it's disgusting how frequently we, as the general public, use people's personal lives for content in the media. It's one thing to make a choice to go public with your own information, but for newspapers and other powerful voices to take the privacy away is such a breach of trust and of confidentiality.

    • don
      December 06, 2013 - 13:50

      but as i said if this info can help save another child lets say it could your child or grand child would you not want to know how to stop it?

    • Concerned
      December 06, 2013 - 22:03

      Yes, there is a lot that have been done, may be our tax dollars could have been better spent in getting the mother the help she needed instead of killing her son...and herself!

  • voter
    December 06, 2013 - 06:57

    olive crane(nancy grace) - don't make this political --SHAME